Education has been singled out as crucial to making Arab countries competitive in the global economy, and one of the ways government plans to change the face of teaching in Egypt is by integrating information technology in the learning process.
“Education is the foundation on which everything else grows, said Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif recently. “There is no doubt that in order to catch up with the rest of the world, we need to build the skills of our youth.
Developing education currently tops the Cabinet’s agenda, as human capital and capacity building “make us important players in today’s global world.
In the May 2006 World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Nazif government announced that it was adopting the WEF’s Global Education Initiative, a move the government says will help make Egypt a techno-savvy nation.
“Education is one of those very high impact issues that come up every year in the forum, said Daniel Davies, the WEF’s associate director on the Middle East. He added that education acts as a catalyst for change; it can equip people with the tools needed to push their countries forward.
With the support of First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, the Egyptian Education Initiative (EEI) is using a public-private partnership model in a bid to improve education through the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT).
“The [EEI] is a tremendous opportunity to provide Egypt’s greatest asset – its people – with the skills necessary for the 21st century, said the First Lady during the initiative’s launch.
According to Howaida Ismail, higher education track leader for the initiative, the EEI focuses on four tracks: pre-university education, higher education, lifelong learning and e-learning industry development. It is an aggregation of all efforts aimed at utilizing ICT in education reform.
“All educational institutions have been benefiting from EEI interventions since the beginning of the initiative. The lifelong learning centers are growing progressively to reach at least 800 centers by the end of the initiative, she said.
Since its launch, the EEI has delivered over 39,000 computers and 2,000 data shows to public schools across the country. It has also equipped 900 schools with ADSL. The initiative brought IT learning labs to Egypt’s 18 universities and certified more than 400 local academies as e-learning centers, serving schools, universities and NGOs.
Several thousand teachers and administrators were also trained under EEI, and now know how to effectively use ICT tools in education and on digital literacy. The initiative has reached out to around 5,000 parents, who have learned how to use of ICT tools at home.
“EEI interventions have exceeded a total value of $80 million during its two years of implementation, out of which 80 percent is covered by the government of Egypt to provide the infrastructure, Ismail pointed out.
“Most of the training, capacity building programs, applications and digital content are [delivered through] our partners.
These partners include ICT giants Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Alcatel-Lucent and Siemens, who have partnered with the Ministries of IT and Education.
“The EEI is a public-private partnership [effort] that brings strategic partners together with the government to improve the way education is provided in schools, Davies said. “It shows that if you can be creative and work collaboratively, you can implement change.
Last year, the EEI created an e-learning focus program for lifelong learners and proceeded to localize international e-content for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The EEI achievements received international recognition and won last May the first Technology in Government in Africa (TIGA) award and was later honored as Project of the Year 2007 by the Cisco Networking Award.
Still in the works is an effort to extend its expertise in delivering education through IT tools beyond Egypt’s borders.
According to an official at the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, “Egypt’s experience in upgrading its education through the EEI is now going global, and we are now packaging our model to implement in several African countries.